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Origins of New Jersey


Forest of New Jersey
Forest of New Jersey

The first human settlement of the area that is now New Jersey probably occurred about 10,500 bc, after glaciers that had covered the region retreated. The first culture, the Paleo-Indians, hunted mammoths and other prehistoric animals. They were followed in about 7000 bc by the Archaic culture; these people lived in the developing forests and depended on hunting deer and birds and gathering plants. As the regionally distinctive Northeast culture developed, agriculture became important as a source of food.

When Europeans first came to the New Jersey area, they encountered the Delaware people, who called themselves the Lenni Lenape, meaning “original people.” These peaceful tribes, who spoke Algonquian languages, numbered about 10,000 people at the time of European contact. Primarily farmers, the Delaware supplemented their major crops of corn, squash, and beans with fish, wild game, berries, nuts, herbs, and roots. They made an important advance in agriculture by learning to use ashes from burned trees as fertilizer. The coming of Europeans began the rapid decline of these native inhabitants. Many died of diseases introduced by whites. The remainder were forced from their ancestral homes by the white settlers’ quest for land. However, treatment of the Native Americans was relatively more humane in New Jersey than in other parts of America.

Little violence occurred, and the white settlers acquired native land peaceably, by treaty. As their land holdings shrank, different groups of Delaware migrated west, eventually settling in several sites from southern Ontario, Canada, to Oklahoma. Although an attempt was made in 1758 to provide the remnants of the Delaware with a reservation at Brotherton, now Indian Mills, New Jersey, most of the remaining Delaware left New Jersey around 1800. "New Jersey" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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